Gaming And How Its Helped Me Through Pandemics, Elections, And Everything In-Between
2020, am I right? This year has certainly provided plenty to increase the levels of anxiety, stress, and depression in even the most hardened citizens. With the 2020 election day now past, yet somehow still uncertain, these issues affecting all of us have fruited a collective sense of unrest and uneasiness about the coming days. As such, here at DFTG, our writers have been given the day off to ensure we have enough time to exercise our civic duty to vote, as well as to help ease our panicked state of mind. We all write for DFTG because we love video games, when they help us celebrate good times and cope with uncertain times like we currently face. As such, I’ve decided to use this time to share my go-to favorite video games that help me de-stress and distract myself when anxiety or wariness start to rise.
Kingdom Hearts Series
I’ll start off with my favorite video game series of all time, Kingdom Hearts. Aside from my personal attachment to it being a core game of my youth, the reason I still coming coming back for every absurdly named Kingdom Hearts sequel and spinoff is its core combat mechanics. While the series has provided a variety of fighting styles for players to use in the games, for me, just using the simple button-mashing style of whacking a keyblade around at Heartless monsters has been fairly useful for me to de-stress. While it can be repetitive to some hitting the same buttons over and over again against the same types of enemies, for me I’ve often compared the experience to a meditative practice, like a Buddhist slowly drawing lines in a sand mandala. Just getting lost in the flurry of combat and colorful special moves helps me drown out the world outside and find comfort in the Disney mayhem gone a-muck with Square Enix demons and pretty anime bois. Yes, even when Donald Duck refuses to heal me, the game itself does not. Sidescrolling beat-em-ups like the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games or the similar hack-and-slash Dynasty Warriors and No More Heroes games might do a similar thing for you if the Disney worlds aren’t your thing.
Guitar Hero Series
Music is a big part of my coping strategies for uncertain times, helping me either find calm during uncertain times or the motivation to get up and be active when I’m otherwise feeling scared or listless. While rhythm games can be hit or miss, when they excel, the experience can parallel the rush of playing an instrument well. For me, my favorite rhythm games have been the classic Guitar Hero games. The soundtracks they’ve gathered have always been incredible, and playing them at parties is always a rad time. Guitar Hero 3 and World Tour especially helped me out a bunch when I was in college and would be nervous for a class or test that day. Doing a quick playthrough of Bulls on Parade by Rage Against The Machine on GH3 or Misery Business by Paramore on GHWT would help hype me and get me to storm into class like I was Scott Pilgrim getting ready for an evil ex boss fight. If any of your favorite artists have songs on rhythm games, try checking those titles out and strumming your troubles away.
Animal Crossing Series
This one is somewhat obvious, and likely to already be on your radar as a de-stressing game in uncertain times, as it undoubtedly helped numerous people cope with the earlier days of the pandemic this year as it did for me. Animal Crossing: New Horizons clearly provided a much-needed distraction, and helped provided a safe place for shared experiences and celebrations like Tinder dates and business meetings. Aside from it being the biggest new game available at the time, to me, I think the series’s perennial structure as not having any sort of set goal or benchmark for success helps make it work for everyone. With no clear goals, one is free to be either as diligent and busybodied as possible, or as carefree and relaxed as they wish to play the game. For people with different coping strategies, the small tasks of Animal Crossing help the time just fly by. However, if you’re like me and playing so much ACNH this year gave you a bit of fatigue, some other similar games that can fill this space in slightly different ways are Stardew Valley, The Sims and the Cheech and Chong Bud Farm mobile game.
Celeste is probably not only one of my favorite platforming games ever, but it’s also one of the best portrayals and commentaries on coping with mental issues like anxiety. The game is a rather difficult platformer in the style of Super Meat Boy, where the player is able to restart the level fairly quickly (although it does offer a wide variety of difficulty settings). While it excels explicitly in portraying its main characters going through events like a panic attack and openly talking about their emotions, its hidden brilliance lies in the hidden metaphors of the gameplay itself. Choosing to continue on and try a level again, getting gradually better and better and learning something new from each try is a genius way to express one’s lifetime of mental health struggles. Without spoiling, the main character’s dynamic with her dark doppelganger throughout the game also cleverly describes the mental health experience in a subtle way. If you’re looking for a distracting challenge that also helps put narrative language to what you may be feeling this week, this might just be the perfect game for you in uncertain times.
The coming days in these uncertain times are surely to test you, no matter the outcome of 2020 or what the new COVID-19 infection rates may be. Do whatever you can to find proper self-care and mental clarity, and do not hesitate to reach out to others that may need it. Contact loved ones or a national hotline like 1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-4727). Use video games as a coping tool if it helps you, and remember that just like a World of Warcraft guild, we accomplish more when we work together.
For more opinion pieces like this or our writer Raven’s commentary on being a person of color and a gamer, stay tuned to Don’t Feed the Gamers! Follow us on Twitter to see our updates the minute they go live!
Cory Lara1608 Posts
A royally radical and totally tubular 90s kid, Cory has a passion for all things nerdy, particularly gaming and nostalgia. While an accountant by day, he strives to be as creative and humorous as possible in his free time, be it here writing on Don't Feed the Gamers, or making dumb satirical posts on his Twitter, Youtube, Facebook and Instagram accounts.